S&P 500 Earnings Update: Estimated 2016 Earnings Have Slowed From 8% To 4% Since January 1, 2016

by: Brian Gilmartin, CFA

Using the Thomson Reuters data, with Q4 '15 earnings complete for all but 70 S&P 500 companies, the year-over-year earnings growth for the S&P 500 will be about -1% when the final print is made April 1, '16.

For 2016, the estimated S&P 500 earnings growth rate has slowed from 8% to just 4% in the last 7 weeks, or since January 1, '16.

Q4 '15 revenue growth is -3.8%, with the Health Care sector showing the best revenue growth at +9%, and Energy (naturally) showing the lowest y/y revenue growth at -35%.

S&P 500 earnings data by the numbers: (courtesy of Thomson Reuters):

  • Forward 4-quarter estimate: $121.74, down from last week's $121.90.
  • P.E ratio: 15.75(x) (the bears point to the PE relative to the growth rate as the primary reason to be bearish (and for good reason)).
  • PEG ratio: 13.76(x), see above sentence. +4% earnings growth expected in 2016, versus the 15.75(x) PE today.
  • S&P 500 earnings yield: 6.35% versus last week's 6.74% - still elevated.
  • Year-over-year growth rate of forward estimate: +1.15%, vs. last week's +1.38%

Analysis: Part of the issue with the general equity market, and by that I'm talking the major equity indices like the S&P 500, the Nasdaq and the Dow 30, is that there is little seeming growth in the S&P 500 outside of health care and a few select tech sectors, and the forward growth rate can't seem to get traction. To see the y/y growth rate of the S&P 500 forward 4-quarter estimate go negative again, as it did from April '15 through January '16 would not be good (in my opinion).

A lot of Street Strategists went more bearish in late 2015, and that seems justified now given that the -1% S&P 500 earnings growth in 2015, and the expected 4% S&P 500 earnings growth (down from 8% and still falling) implies close to two years of zero earnings growth for the S&P 500, which is undoubtedly a "PE compressing" macro environment.

My own forecast was for a 10% return on the S&P 500 in 2016, and that Financials and Technology, in terms of sector allocations, would likely offer the least risk for 2016, and the sector bets have clearly been wrong.

Financials as a sector has actually far under-performed Energy YTD in 2016.

Not good…

Conclusion: Investors are entering the "dead zone" in terms of earnings results until some key large caps report in March '16, including Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), FedEx (NYSE:FDX), Nike (NYSE:NKE), and several others. Retail will finish out the month of February and March '16. The great majority of the S&P 500 has reported Q4 '15 and it sure looks like -1% S&P 500 earnings growth will be in the books for last year.

Technically, all the chartists are watching 1,950, a number I've heard many times.